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Tess Davis Named Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition

September 9, 2015

The Antiquities Coalition today named Tess Davis as its Executive Director. The lawyer and trained archaeologist will oversee the organization’s work to fight cultural racketeering: the illicit trade in art and antiquities by terrorists and criminals. Davis will also manage the day-to-day operations of the institute’s staff in Washington, DC and New York, and programs in the Middle East and Asia.

Tess Davis
Tess Davis, Executive Director of The Antiquities Coalition.

“We are fortunate to have someone with such talent and experience leading our efforts to fight antiquities looting and trafficking, especially given ISIS’s recent destruction of temples, monuments, and antiquities as a tool for cultural cleansing. The global community has no greater ally in combating cultural racketeering than Tess Davis,” said Deborah Lehr, Chairman and Co-Founder of the Antiquities Coalition.

Davis comes to the Antiquities Coalition after a three-year campaign to help the Royal Government of Cambodia recover a stolen Khmer masterpiece from a prominent auction house. The thousand-year-old statue had been on the block for $3 million dollars, when Cambodia revealed that it had been plundered by paramilitary forces during the country’s bloody civil war with the Khmer Rouge. The auction house refused to return the piece, leading to two years of heated litigation. Thanks in part to Davis’s efforts — and most importantly the hard work of the Cambodian and United States governments — the statue was successfully repatriated in 2014. Davis played a “critical” role in its recovery, in work that was featured by The New York Times.

“I am honored that the Antiquities Coalition has chosen me as its first executive director,” Davis said. “From Cambodia, to Iraq and Syria, to the United States, we are facing a crisis. Cultural racketeering is not just destroying our past, it is threatening our future by funding crime and conflict around the world. The Antiquities Coalition — and the diverse group of leaders it has assembled — is dedicated to stopping this threat to both our cultural heritage and global security. I am very grateful for this opportunity to support them.”

Davis joins the Washington-based nonprofit after devoting the last decade to fighting the illicit antiquities trade: first in the field as an archaeologist, and then by conducting ground-breaking legal and scholarly research for leading academic institutions. She has been a consultant for the Cambodian and U.S. federal governments, and works with both the art world and law enforcement to keep looted antiquities off the market. She is affiliated with the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research at the University of Glasgow.

Davis frequently writes and speaks on the issue of cultural racketeering. Her work has appeared in TheLos Angeles TimesThe New York TimesCNNThe Cambodia Daily and multiple scholarly publications. She also contributes to both The Conversation and The Huffington Post.